Monday, November 21, 2011


As those few of you who still pay attention to me know, my other-life of busy career has caused a lot of serious delays with M-Brane SF publication. What I said in the last post--that I intend to publish the final two issues of the current format shortly--is still true, and I am close to done with content selection for those. I have, however, closed to further submissions. I haven't yet made final decisions as to which stories will fill those last two issues, but I believe that I have them in hand and just need separate the great from the really great. Since I am no longer taking subscriptions for the current (soon-to-be-former) format of the zine, the final two editions will be released for free on this site and elsewhere.

M-Brane SF will appear in a new iteration in 2012, details forthcoming. In the meantime, this site will remain a place for news of my small press's business, including future book projects, our fantasy zine Fantastique Unfettered and other cool stuff.

Thanks, everyone, for all the support, companionship (and patience!) over the past three years. I have some good stuff in the works for after the end of this little hiatus.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Update on the Recent Inactivity

I've made no new post to this blog since July, and that one was about how I imagined my schedule was back under control and that M-Brane Press and zine matters would resume their normal calendar. Such has  not happened. Since that post, the situation with my day job has changed fundamentally. We are in a transition there, and I have been doing essentially the work of at least two people. An average work day has been about 14 hours, and I haven't had a single full day off since Labor Day. I am not complaining (I do like my job), just reporting facts by way of explaining why M-Brane SF has not had a new issue lately and why writers who have stories in submission have been awaiting reply for an exceptionally long amount of time. So I want to update anyone who still cares about what's going and what the future holds for my little publishing operation...

1) The M-Brane SF zine will appear in its normal format twice more, as issues #28 and #29, probably in November and December. After that, I intend to change it into something else. I want to continue curating the particular kind of fiction that I have attracted to M-Brane SF, but it needs to be in a manner that both draws more attention to its writers but which also requires a less crazy amount of labor on my part given the ongoing facts of my "real" life.

2) Writers who have stories in submission to M-Brane SF (or whom may still submit) can either patiently await my reply or email me at mbranesf at gmail dot com to inquire about their submission status or withdraw their submission, no hard feelings. A bunch of stories have already been in the "maybe" folder for going on 90 days, which is crazy-long by my standards, so I understand if anyone is tired of waiting. That being said, stories that I have here will be replied to eventually, and new submissions will be considered for the last two normal "monthly" issues until I have them filled.

3) M-Brane Press projects such as our fantasy zine Fantastique Unfettered and our various book projects will be unaffected by the change with the M-Brane zine.

4) Some new M-Brane Press projects--including a re-imagining of the M-Brane SF zine concept--will be announced later. We have have a couple of books on deck, and have a few other cool things in the cooker.

I've learned a lot, met a lot of cool people, and done a lot of wicked awesome stuff in the almost three years since I launched M-Brane SF, and I don't intend to stop doing any of that. It will just be different and probably better. Thanks, all, for not sending me a lot of hate mail during my recent relative silence.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

M-BRANE SF #29 releases tonight

The new issue releases in PDF form to its subscribers tonight in about an hour. Below is the usual PayPal button that one may use to purchase a copy. Money received in this way is a large part of what keeps the zine going. Due to various delays, I missed my usual post previewing the table of contents and the writers, so I copy here my intro notes from the issue:

Since I’m already late with getting these stories to you, I won’t take up a lot of time with my usual news updates and other ramblings. It’s a powerful quintet of astounding visions that comprises this new issue, and together they form an answer to the question, “Why science fiction?” A writer can explore big ideas and smaller-scale personal situations in any genre, but there’s not a genre quite like sf for probing into those interstices between the grand and the minute, the cosmic and the personal, the Big Idea and the assimilation of it on a smaller scale.
Occasionally I hear complaints that a “sense of wonder” left the genre a long time ago, supplanted by smaller ideas and unimportant concerns. When I hear this, I wonder what people are reading because this is certainly not true of the best of the contemporary genre. This attitude emanates, I think, from a conservative outlook on the genre and a notion that the old Golden Age, and its total occupation with Idea and Plot, was necessarily superior somehow to contemporary work where Character and Style are of interest and importance and where the imaginary boundary between science fiction and “literature” has blurred and broken down. I think that over time with M-Brane SF I have managed, unintentionally, to show that this debate is at least somewhat contrived. Because here we have it all.
The new issue opens with A.J. Fitzwater’s stunning “Twixt,” and it ends with Kenneth Burstall’s lavishly bizarre (and very “M-Braney”) item “The Cone.” In between, we have stupendous entries from Mark Ward (“After the Fall”), Mason Gallaway (“Ocean of Change”) and M-Brane SF veteran and recent Writers of the Future winner Patty Jansen (“War Games”).
Engage and enjoy.—CF 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Back to business, for the most part

Readers of our zine, or people who follow it or me in other online ways, may have noticed that I have been somewhat off-schedule and generally absent for the last few weeks. A big pile-up of projects in May, plus an incredibly busy work schedule through May and June caused some problems: we missed entirely our May issue of the zine. The third print Quarterly (collecting issues #25, #26 and #27) is a bit late, as is issue #29 (we're skipping #28--it may show up later in some kind of special off-schedule form). But the good news:

1) Issue #29 is basically done and will release in a few days (it will be called the June issue, even though its release will happen a few days into July). It's full of terrific new stuff. I'll post its table of contents, info about its authors, and its cover image shortly.

2) The third Quarterly is also basically done, and it, too, will show up within a few days. I have to finish its cover and a few other little details, but it's about there. It will feature some great content not seen in the electronic issues: two brilliant stories by Adam Callaway and an interview with him.

3) Issue #30, July, is expected on schedule, returning us to our normal calendar.

4) I may have an announcement about some kind of cool new book project soon.

My day-jobbery is always busy (and a fresh new change in my job description adds to this), but it has a couple of high seasons each year, and last week was the climax of one such. I worked all seven days of it and clocked about 74 hours on duty. While that was a bit out of the ordinary, it's not too different than what most weeks have been like for the last couple of months. But we're in a bit of slower spell now for a few weeks, and I intend to catch up on a lot of other business.

Thanks everyone who has supported M-Brane SF and M-Brane Press's other projects over the last couple of years. We've been a bit quiet lately, but are still in business.

(The image, appropos of nothing, is of the dessert from a wine dinner I prepared in June--part of the day-job work. It is a chocolate-peanut butter ganache tartlet with salted caramel sauce, accompanied by red and white wine jellies. Yeah, zinfandel and chardonnay solidified with apple pectin, like wine Jello shots!)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Behold, the M-Brane SF Double!

A short vid of me showing off the proof copy of the M-Brane SF Double. It should be live for purchase on the major online booksellers any hour now. Also, I will still honor the pre-order special indefinitely if anyone wants to take advantage of the electronic freebies, because why not? Click on that "related articles" item at the end of this post for more info on that.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

M-Brane SF #28 is late!

So this is all rather embarrassing: the month of June seems to have begun already without there ever having been a May publication of M-Brane SF. The twenty-eighth issue fell to my crazy work schedule during May, plus the final push to finish The New People/Elegant Threat (M-Brane SF Double). We had a situation like this in December when the December 2010 issue was actually released in the first half of January 2011, followed two weeks later by the January issue. This might be how it plays out with May and June this time. Expect either two nearly back-to-back releases this month, or a double issue.

While just being too busy (average work week was 65-70 hours during May) was the main factor, there was another situation that contributed to this unusual lateness. I just didn't really have enough stories that I wanted for it. I looked at a ton of submissions and didn't see a lot that was quite right. I did not, however, want my decision-making to be too much affected by fatigue--and the fact that I was seeing basically nothing indicated that the problem might lie partly with me--so I held a lot more candidates in the "maybe" folder than I might have otherwise. I've gradually worked through it, and there are now only eighteen stories submitted since April 26 that are awaiting a decision, which I hope to get done within a couple days.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Zack Kopplin cheered for blasting Bachmann

At M-Brane Press, we defend rationality, sanity and science. Over on my personal journal, I tonight declared 17-year-old Zack Kopplin an M-Brane SF "Anti-Douchebag" for his campaign to repeal Louisiana's idiotic Science Education Act, which opens the public schools wide to Creationist bullshit, and for directly challenging Congresswoman Bachmann to cough up her alleged Nobel laureates who actually believe in "intelligent design." The occasional acknowledgement of a regular civilian who has done something great to defeat stupidity used to be something that I just did personally, but now it is an "Official" program of M-Brane SF and M-Brane Press. Stupidity and anti-science are on the march everywhere in the United States. M-Brane stands against this madness.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

2020 VISIONS released in epub format on B&N

It's a few months later than planned, but we finally have an .epub-format ebook version of Rick Novy's 2020 Visions available as a Nook Book at Barnes and Noble, and directly from M-Brane Press as well (details below). It's our hope that people who passed on the lovely print version of the book (also available at B&N as well as Amazon) were just waiting for a version that they could read on their Nook or iPad or a variety of other devices and will now go ahead and get a copy of this great book. 2020 Visions is a beautiful original anthology of very near-future speculative fiction (the "2020" in the title refers to the year) featuring stories by Mary Robinette Kowal, Alex Wilson, Jack Mangan, David Gerrold, Emily Devenport, Alethea Kontis, Ernest Hogan, Jeff Spock, David Lee Summers and many others. This is a very cool book, and for only $4.95 at Barnes and Noble, it should not be missed.

You can also buy it right here for only $3.95, using the Pay Pal button below (takes credit cards and e-checks if you don't have a Pay Pal account). One may wonder why we seem to be undercutting our own price at Barnes and Noble. We're really not--it's just that direct purchase from M-Brane means a bit more money more quickly that can eventually go to the authors when this book goes into profit. But if you're shopping at B&N anyway, then by all means get it there. By the way, if you purchase it here, allow anywhere from a few hours to a day or so for delivery: we're not rigged for direct download from this site, so we send a link to you by email.

One last special detail: Anyone who buys 2020 Visions in any format (print, Nook, Kindle) from B&N, Amazon or directly from M-Brane Press will get a free subscription to the electronic (PDF) edition of M-Brane SF, our very nice monthly magazine of short speculative fiction. If you purchase from B&N or Amazon or any other retailer, just forward a copy of your order confirmation or receipt to mbranesf at gmail dot com, and we will add you to the M-Brane SF subscription list.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


The M-Brane SF Double, by Alex Jeffers and Brandon H. Bell, is finally within days of completion. This beautiful book is due for official release May 31. People who have followed my blogs or paid attention to me on Twitter and Facebook over the past year know that I have long dreamed of publishing a book that would honor the style of the old Ace Doubles from decades ago, those wonderful books where two short novels were published back-to-back (and upside down in relation to one another), so that the book has the effect of having two front covers. Over the last two years, I have had the joy of publishing monthly issues of M-Brane SF, a couple of gorgeous anthologies, a couple of lovely single-author short fiction collections, and the new fantasy periodical Fantastique Unfettered. I adore all of these things, but this new book, the Double, has become something of the new baby of the family, the special adored one, the focus of all attention (The rest of my operations will probably be glad when it's finally released! )

While I have worked hard on this project, the work I that have done is petty, insignificant, a mere trifle compared to that of the real talent behind it, the two great writers and the one great cover artist. These three came together to make my pet project not just real but actually a thing worth doing. I am going to introduce the two authors and their stories at length below, in the form of publishing here the actual intros that I prepared for the book. But first I want to acknowledge artist Jeff Lund for making two fine, matching covers for this book which each catch an essence from the stories they introduce but which also together create the whole look that I was after for this book. Of course everyone who knows me at all knows very well that Jeff is also my life partner, but his employment as the cover artist was by no means an easy inside job. He fought me for months on actually doing the work, insisting that he wasn't qualified for it. But I knew that he could do it--because I had seen so much great work from him before--and that he was the exact artist that I needed for this very special project. This post on my Live Journal , from many months ago, tells the story of getting the covers done in more detail.

M-Brane Press is offering a fine domestic (US and Canada) pre-order special for the M-Brane SF Double: The New People/Elegant Threat, Print Edition. Buy here, using the Pay Pay button below (takes credit/debit cards and e-checks if you don't have an actual Pay Pal account) for $14.95. For this price, you will get a copy of the beautiful print edition of this book (shipping included) plus this giant slew of electronic bonuses: 

1) A permanent electronic (PDF) subscription to M-Brane SF, the monthly magazine of astounding science fiction. Your subscription will begin (and never end!) with a three-issue "starter pack" consisting of issues #25, #26 and the new #27--check out a free issue with the button over in the right side bar...
2) Electronic copies of Fantastique Unfettered #1 and #2 (worth the price right there). Fantastique Unfettered is our new "Periodical of Liberated Literature," a gorgeous magazine edited by Double author Bell... 
3) Electronic copies of our fabulous anthologies Things We Are Not (queer sf) and 2020 Visions (near-future sf)...
4) An electronic copy of Ergosphere, the special twelfth issue of M-Brane SF, guest-edited by Rick Novy...
5) A giant mega-bundle of the entire second year of M-Brane SF, back issues #13 through #24. 

(Again, US and Canadian orders only; sorry, we can't manage high overseas shipping costs at this low price, but the print book will become available in the UK, Europe and Australia after release.)

We are giving away nearly everything we have to give away with this special. That's how terrific we think it is, and how important we think it is that people get a copy of this book. But there's one catch: The special ends by the 5/31 publication date or as soon as 100 readers order this special. As soon as order #100 is received, we will will shut down the pre-order and the book will then be available only through B&N, Amazon, etc. (This isn't just an arbitrary number or a gimmick--processing pre-orders is a lot of work, and a 100 is about as many as we want to commit to in the next couple weeks). Readers who decide to jump on this good deal should do so right now by using the Pay Pal button. Allow us up to a day to send you by email the details of your purchase, including all your download links to your fat new cache of electronically preserved fiction. The print Double won't ship to you until 5/31, but you'll have more than enough to read in the meantime.

Here's the nice, easy-to-use Buy Now button, and please continue reading below to learn more about the authors and their novels...

$14.95 includes M-Brane SF Double (print), and everything mentioned above.


he fact that Alex Jeffers does not quite yet seem to be a common household name among readers of speculative fiction is a deplorable situation that I mean to do whatever little I can to correct. A writer of fantasy, science fiction and difficult-to-categorize literature, Jeffers has been one of my favorite writers that I have encountered over the last couple of years. He is a storyteller of remarkable imagination, a wordsmith of great talent and an editor’s dream of a writer with whom to work on a project.
I first learned of Jeffers when he offered a story for my GLBT science fiction anthology Things We Are Not (2009). I accepted “Composition with Barbarian and Animal”—a gorgeous, exotic, enthralling tale—for the book and counted myself lucky to have gotten such a nice item for my first attempt at editing an anthology. After I learned more about Alex Jeffers, I suspected that he was a writer perhaps a bit out of my league at the time (as the very small-time editor I was), and I doubted that I’d have a shot at publishing him again any time soon. But a short while later he surprised me with “Jannicke’s Cat” (M-Brane SF #10, November 2009). And it was then, while reading this achingly lovely story, that I learned of the singular world of Rahab, an oceanic place with but a few small islands where humans live in interstellar isolation from their cousins on other distant, out-of-reach planets. There befell a situation that resulted in the birth of no more females to the last generation of women on that world. Jannicke, an old woman at the time of the story, is one of the last of her sex, in a soon-to-be all-male world where the very survival of the species may be in peril.
Fast-forward many, many years: Science found a way where nature didn’t, and the humans—the men—of Rahab survive and flourish as humans always have, living their lives, dreaming their dreams, marrying and having families. But something else also remained the same as it had always been: most males were still born heterosexually oriented but they would live their lives never knowing a single living woman. This biological, existential conundrum and one possible solution to it are at the core of The New People. If, based on what I have just said, you have already formed expectations or made presumptions about what you will find in The New People, you are probably wrong. Jeffers surprises throughout both with the details of the story and the way his vividly rendered characters navigate through it.
When Jeffers submitted The New People to me over a year ago, I was frankly stunned. Because he submitted it for consideration as a story for the normal run of the M-Brane SF magazine, taking me at my word that I had no upper limit on word count. Indeed I do not have a firm upper word count limit for the magazine, but a thirty thousand word novella that I suspected would be fantastic (before I’d even read a single word) seemed altogether too much to treat as a normal submission. So, what to do? I had already been chattering on the web about my dream of creating a new book in the old style of the Ace Doubles, but I was still pretty far away from committing to the actual doing of it, and I had no idea what I’d be able to get for its content.  But as I started reading The New People, I realized that I had one half of my Double in hand already. It was the perfect situation all around: I had one story that would work beautifully for the new book, and it was a story that had long deserved but had never gotten a proper presentation to the public.
As with the story that forms the other half of this book, Jeffers’ tale is one stand-alone piece of what we must hope will one day come forth as part of a much larger story. Jeffers says he has in process a work called A Boy’s History of the World, which will incorporate all of his Rahab stories. This is something that ranks highly on my personal list of Books That I Wish Existed. But for now, I will content myself with the terrific pleasure of being the one to point toward this great open window into that world. Enjoy.
—Christopher Fletcher, Editor, M-Brane SF

Foreword to Elegant Threat by Brandon H. Bell..

 have been telling readers about Brandon H. Bell since I first read his work in the slush-pile the first month I was producing M-Brane SF magazine. In the slightly more than two years since M-Brane SF #1, I have published Brandon’s stories twice more in the magazine and in a couple of anthologies (Things We Are Not and the M-Brane SF Quarterly #1), and I have been gratified to see, as his list of publishing credits steadily lengthens, that other editors are seeing what I see in this extraordinarily imaginative and intelligent writer.
The story you are about to read is a marvel, and the realization in print of a project that Brandon Bell has been working on for a long time. He has created a rich, lavish, fascinating and sometimes frightening Post-Singularity, interplanetary milieu. Some lucky readers have had a chance to peer into it a couple of times already: one of his first published short stories, “Best Gift” (Return to Luna, Hadley Rille 2008) was, as Bell describes it on his website, “a tale about Sterling Suits, Neo-Dromedaries, and the persistence of love, trust, and faith on the lunar surface.” The next glimpse into this strange world was in M-Brane SF #5 (June 2009), with the story “Abraham Discovers an Artifact Impenetrable to All Harm,” an enigmatic and startling story about an unusual family struggling to make their way in the universe at the edges of an impending war between humans and Post-humans. These stories were so fascinating that my only complaints were that they were too short and that there weren’t enough of them. But now, with Elegant Threat, we finally get to spend a longer time in Bell’s world.
Elegant Threat—the story of people who wrangle aquatic fauna from the harrowing tides of the moon Shanama against a backdrop of imminent conflict with the mysterious Post-humans and sectarian strife within their own ranks—was envisioned by its author as the first of a triptych of stories that will eventually comprise a much longer novel. But this story herein—a novella of about thirty thousand words—is also complete, self-contained and will satisfy readers even if the other portions are never seen (though all readers of this one will certainly clamor for the rest and Bell likely shall feel obliged to produce it soon enough).
Bell has deployed an interesting and unexpected literary device in telling this story. Its subtitle, On the Demise of Captain Fantomas Patton-Guerrero and Loss of La Amenaza Elegente, gives the reader a big clue up front essentially how the story is going to end, as does the very first chapter’s final line: “…La Amenaza Elegente dropped toward the planet, beginning its descent toward the place that would soon become its grave.” As with an ancient Greek tragic play or a Shakespeare drama, we go into it knowing that Captain Fantomas and his ship are doomed but the fascination lies in seeing how and why this disaster unfolds. And even though the ending is foretold from the earliest pages, the reader will not see coming the stunning sequence of events that bring about that ending. This way of telling the story, as if it is a recounting of an event that the reader may have heard of before, adds an alluring patina of history to it. But what really makes this story and this way of telling it succeed is the way that Bell draws such lovely, nuanced characters and makes the reader really care about them enough to hope that maybe somehow, against all odds, they will still avert tragedy even though we already know that the Amenaza is not going home again.
Now, without further delay, please visit spectacular, deadly Shanama and witness the fate of La Amenaza Elegente.
—Christopher Fletcher, Editor, M-Brane SF

Friday, April 29, 2011


The electronic edition of the new issue will be released to subscribers tonight. Others are invited to support future issues by buying for $2.00 a PDF copy of this great new issue using the Pay Pal button below. Within a day, you'll receive by email a link to download your copy. Such contributions make it possible to continue offering this zine each month. Further below, I will post my entire editor's notes from the new issue, introducing each of the authors and their stories. Annual subscriptions to electronic edition may be purchased at the M-Brane Press page. The contents of issue #27, along with those of issues #25 and #26, will be featured in print book, along with some bonus material, called M-Brane SF Quarterly #3 in June.

April has been a month of readjustment both in the M-Brane world and in my “real” life as I figure out how to organize my time and energy in the best way to get through the coming months. In my day job, as a chef with a local high-end catering and managed services company, “high season” is upon us. Our special events venues are heavily booked, and our restaurants are getting busier and busier. In the M-Brane world, it’s also been a sort of high season in that I have had to manage ongoing monthly issues of this zine, the launch of the second issue of our new sister zine Fantastique Unfettered (a gorgeous print periodical edited by Brandon Bell) and the completion and impending publication of the M-Brane SF Double. Also, we recently put out the second M-Brane SF Quarterly and have the third one coming very soon.

Every month for the last four months, I have seriously considered just deciding that the monthly zine is too much work and either putting it on hiatus, restructuring it, or bagging it altogether. Just a week before the time of this writing I nearly decided that there would be no April issue. But what made me get a grip and change my mind was the fact that I had some terrific stories sitting here that needed me to publish them. The selection of each issue’s content is by far the hardest part of this job. As much as fun as it can be, it can be also be very complicated and stressful. The actual work of compiling and formatting and publishing of the issue is nothing by comparison. After twenty-seven months of it, I can do that in my sleep. But after I finally knew what the stories would be this month, I fell back in love with the whole thing again and decided it was decided it was dumb to have ever considered not doing it. I went through that hate-love process last month, too, and may again next month. But there is now, and will be then, a new issue.

I have a simple system for story selection that works decently well, but where it gets stressful is when—as was the case this month—there are a huge number of stories that make it into the MAYBE folder. This usually just means that I was too easy-going during the initial cull and that I will quickly weed out a bunch more NOs in a few minutes. Stories usually make the MAYBE cut simply by displaying both good writing and some kind of hook that appeals to me on the first page or two, but a lot of them end up sent over to the NO folder later for various reasons when I read deeper into them. (If you have submitted a story to M-Brane SF and have waited much more than two weeks for a reply, it’s probably because your item is sitting in that MAYBE folder.) But there were just so many good ones to consider this time, enough to make the whole project rather discouraging. But, eventually, I sorted out the ones that were good but still weren’t quite M-Brane stories, and I ended up with six, these:

Joyce Chng’s “The Bones Shine Through With Light” mesmerizes with its language and imagery. A mysterious story of someone grappling with a legend of a “tiger demoness” and arriving at a life-changing revelation, it is probably not even science fiction in the way we usually define it, but it is nonetheless the correct keynote for this new issue. Chng appeared here last year, and I have been a fan since.

The most classic and expected element of military science fiction—the training and deployment of some kind of space-going infantry or marine force—was probably done best in the classics Starship Troopers (Heinlein) and The Forever War (Haldeman), and it has been re-done again and again, sometimes well and sometimes not. I like this subgenre in theory, but I see a lot of stories like that submitted here that do not work at all. But I like it enough that I have been puttering around off and on for about three years with a novel focused on a military unit in the future. The new military sf stories that I want to see (I have said to myself in despair), are either not being written at all or I just never see them. Ross Gresham delivered an antidote to this problem with his “Spending the Government’s 28.” I still don’t know exactly why this story scratches the itch so well, but it does, and I like it a lot. The writing itself and the voice that comes through it is perfect, and it’s also quite funny—something of an oddity around here in itself, a comical story.

The idea of “the city” as a sort of character in itself, an unconscious entity holding sway over human characters and their story has often, for some reason, appealed to me a lot. I always think of the puzzle of blighted Bellona, the city of Delany’s Dhalgren, that is almost as alive in its way as its human inhabitants. I’ve published a few stories over the run of M-Brane with city-as-enigma at their hearts, and I’ve noticed the development in my own recent work of an imaginary city that stands a bit outside even the stories’ own internal reality. Why I am talking about this will be clearer after reading Kaolin Fire’s strange, thoughtful story “Travelers Through Eternity.”

Court Merrigan’s offering, “The Patch,” is rather funny but also a little bit puzzling. What exactly is it about? Are we to take in stride, at face value, the rather preposterous circumstances depicted here, or is there an obvious layer of allegory and deliberate commentary that we are expected to contemplate? I am not going to offer any commentary of my own other than to say that it's an odd entry even in the long catalog of oddness that M-Brane has been. Also, I was mildly surprised to learn that this came from an American author, because it struck me as having some of the same sensibility as a lot of the quirky British stuff that I have published over the last couple of years (longtime readers may know that I have an affinity for such).

I thought I recognized the name David Alexander Mulis when I saw it as the byline on “Standard Deviation.” I thought I might have published him before, but I haven’t. I checked old mail, and then remembered. He showed me two years ago a story that I didn’t feel was really science fictional enough, though I did think the quality of the writing was quite good. So I was glad to see another one from him and to be able to publish it this time. Readers may wonder well into his new story if this one is indeed a science fiction story. It is, I promise. I suspect that some readers might find the subject matter of this one to be uncomfortable. Its point-of-view character is a porn video director and he does not come off as the most sympathetic person, but it is not M-Brane’s mission to make things easy.

And, with that in mind, we end with “Silverfish.” Hobie Anthony has created a very damaged protagonist and placed him in a horrific world, under the control of one of the most heinous villains I have ever seen in an M-Brane story. Like the story preceding it, readers may wonder for a few pages if they are reading a science fiction story or an out-and-out horror story. It does have a science fictional underpinning that becomes apparent deeper into the narrative, but by the time it does, it almost seems beside the point because the point-of-view character cannot understand it anyway and it is very unclear whether anything can ever change for him.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Announcing M-BRANE #27 authors and stories

A touch late again, but if it comes out at least by the end of the month, I consider that good enough anymore. Busy around here! The new April issue will release by the 30th now that I have finally finished the painstaking task of selecting its contents. This was a tough one. I had a lot of compelling submissions to sort through. Stories moved back and forth from "maybe" to "yes" and back. Too many good ones didn't quite make it.

If you're looking for uplift and good cheer, April might not be your month on the Brane. But for some fine, perceptive writing, then this is just the right time. Here's the line-up:

Joyce Chng: "The Bones Shine Through With Light"
Ross Gresham: "Spending the Government's 28"
Kaolin Fire: "Travelers Through Eternity"
Court Merrigan: "The Patch"
David Alexander Mulis: "Standard Deviation"
Hobie Anthony: "Silverfish"

Joyce Chng has appeared once before in M-Brane, and is so very welcome back with this strange, lovely offering that I knew needed to lead the new issue as soon as I read it. It's a bit too brief, but absolutely delicious, a fine starter course to what follows. Ross Gresham gave me that rare piece of military sf that I've been looking for. I say all the time that I like the military subgenre, yet I seldom actually find that to be true when I read submissions that deal in it. But this one is nearly perfect. Kaolin Fire (of the great Greatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD) Magazine) returns to our pages with a very evocative, mysterious and lovely item that I shan't say much about so as not to spoil it. He tends to produce stories a bit shorter than I usually want, but they are always thought-provoking and finely told. Court Merrigan's story is just plain weird, but also quite funny and quite pointed. I think people will find it offers a couple different layers of enjoyment. The last two items of this issue may have spent the longest time in the "maybe" box because I vacillated a lot about how dark I wanted to let April get. But the quality of their prose and their directness in dealing with their subject matter left no doubt that they are M-Brane stories even though their sf-nal elements are almost incidental, almost beside the point. David Alexander Mulis visits the dark thoughts of a jaded and tired pornographer during what's probably an important moment of realization and transition in his career, while Hobie Anthony takes us into the nearly unbearable world of a very special and profoundly damaged character under the thrall of a villain running a violent and bizarre conspiracy.

The new issue will be out in just a few days. News of such will post right here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

New novel from M-Brane alum S.C. Hayden

Writer S.C. Hayden, whose fascinating short story "End Day" was a highlight of M-Brane SF #3 two years ago, has had a string of publications since, and his new novel, American Idol, is just out from Black Bed Sheet Books. Hayden describes it as a dark social satire that takes some swipes at religion, consumerism, and politics.  

In a twisted yet somehow familiar version of America where militias, doomsday cults and self proclaimed Prophets are as commonplace as gas stations and fast food restaurants, The American Idol Company is born. Their goal: resurrect Idolatry as a prominent religion and get rich manufacturing and selling Idols. They publicly promote their fledgling company as if it were a legitimate religion and they themselves Prophets. The company becomes quickly and wildly successful but outrages millions across the country and around the world. Operating under the belief that scandal and controversy will increase sales, Augustus and Desmond manage to insult everyone from the Pope to the Ayatollah, and come dangerously close to starting World War 3. Meanwhile, a shadowy group of religious fundamentalists manipulate a naive young man named Robert General. Robert, a repressed homosexual and member of the Sweethaven Chapter of the Righteous American Nazis, is used as a pawn in a plot to  destroy The American Idol Company. The looming threat of disaster comes to fruition in the city of Galapagos, Texas, when Rob General, confused and drug-addled, flies a small ,explosive laden airplane into The American Idol Company headquarters.

I have only read the first four chapters of this book, and so I cannot provide an actual review of it. But Hayden is a good writer with an engaging style. Very often, satirical speculative fiction that trades heavily in contemporary situations does not appeal to me because it is often too contemporaneous, too self-consciously about current affairs and often quite blunt in an inartful way. But I am not finding this to be the case at all with Hayden's book a few chapters in. Readers who are into this kind of story ought to check it out. It's also available at Amazon.

By the way, I like to offer plugs for M-Brane writers when they have a new book out, but I have probably missed a lot of such opportunities. So if you are a writer whom I've published in M-Brane SF or in one of our anthologies, and would like a shout-out for your current work, do let me know at mbranesf at gmail dot com. I cannot promise reviews because reading time is so precious nowadays but I'll do my best to help get the word out.

Monday, March 28, 2011

FU gets fantastic review

I am reprinting here a great review of our periodical Fantastique Unfettered. But you may want to instead visit its original posting at the Future Fire site because links to a lot of the writers are intact over there. 

Reviewed by Nader Elhefnawy
M-Brane Press, the publisher of small press science fiction magazine M-Brane SF, launched a fantasy counterpart to that publication last year, Fantastique Unfettered (or FU). Under the editorship of Brandon H. Bell, FU has as its stated purpose the publication of ‘well-written, compellingly readable, original stories of fantasist fiction,’ both short fiction and poetry, which is ‘unfettered by traditional copyright,’ so that all its content carries a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA license.

The authors appearing in the premier, Winter 2010 issue of the publication, which has eleven short stories and three poems in its 140 pages, offer a wide range of approaches and settings. Perhaps exemplary in this respect is the story to which the issue’s cover art is devoted, Michael J. Shell’s ‘The Death of a Soybean’, which presents an off-the-wall alternate version of the Manhattan Project and World War II. More a uchronia than an alternate history, ‘Soybean’ surreally scrambles the events of our timeline rather than exploring a counterfactual scenario, with Robert J. Oppenheimer just a Los Alamos security guard who happens to be eccentrically preoccupied with an idea called ‘nuclear fission,’ and a femme fatale lady physicist with the unlikely name of Maladi scheming, seducing and killing her way to fame, fortune and a place in scientific history.

Offering a nightmare complement to Shell’s noirish dream is Kaolin Fire’s ‘The Aetheric God’, in which a young technician named Asher who spends his days building steam-men for his employer ‘Chief Technician’ Father Isaiah. He spends his nights hiding in the cathedral’s library-desperately burying himself in its books to try and quiet ‘the voice of God within his head’ calling for Asher’s mutilation and destruction, a crisis that soon enough moves out of his head and into the physical world.

Going in a sharply different direction from either is Alan Frackelton’s ‘A Blessing From the Blind Boy’, the story of a disgruntled gaucho named Juan Hernandez who burglarizes the mansion of his ruthless landowner employer somewhere (and somewhen) in twentieth century Latin America, putting Hernandez’s young son Ramon in the center of a cycle of revenge, loss and longing.

In a lighter, more fanciful vein, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz’s ‘Breaking the Spell’ (a reprint from Philippine Speculative Fiction 4) has for its protagonist a little girl who becomes fascinated with the miniature world her father keeps under a bell jar. While her father’s fairy tales never ring true for her (she is ‘determined not to kiss a prince’), entry into that little world becomes the object of her own fairy tale quest.

However, in contrast with exoticism, the issue favors toward contemporary contexts, and compared with the world-changing (and rather nihilistic) events of Shell’s story, or the intense confrontation with the supernatural of Fire’s, subtler uses of speculative elements inside quieter, more personal stories. The descriptor that came to mind when I read Frank Ard’s story of a love triangle between a man, mer-man and woman ‘Small Fish in the Deep Blue’ is ‘slipstream.’ Others incorporate surreal intrusions into what might otherwise be a realist narrative, like in Mary J. Daley’s ‘The Book of Barnyard Souls’, in which a young farm girl named Kalee receives nightly visits from the souls of deceased animals; Natania Barron’s ‘Without a Light’, in which a sixth-grade teacher in a small town starts an affair with a mysterious colleague; Elizabeth Creith’s ‘Five Oak Leaves’, where a man encounters a young changeling girl living on the street.

In Anna Manthiram’s ‘Boris’, a meditation via fortune cookie-like clothing tags on the titular character’s involvements with various women; Christopher Green’s ‘Holding Hands’, in which a Vietnam veteran encounters a girl he left behind at thirteen many years later in his wife’s ballet studio; or Michael J. Deluca’s ‘The Driftwood Chair’, in which a man roams the beach trying to cope with the loss of a love; it is possible to blink and miss the speculative touch.

By and large the sensibility is ‘literary,’ and the quality is high (the two, of course, not always the same thing), virtually all the stories assembled here working, though to different degrees and in different ways. ‘Death of a Soybean’ succeeds on the strength of its pacing and strangeness, Fire’s ‘The Aetheric God’ on the nightmarish force of the telling. The poems offer similar grandiosity, particularly Bruce Boston’s rich, dark, chaotic ‘The Time Traveler Leaves History Behind’ and Alexandra Seidel’s glittering ‘In Babel.’ Daley’s touching ‘Barnyard Souls,’ is the most emotionally resonant story in the volume, though the pieces by Frackleton and Creith also succeed on this level.

That combination of quality and variety means that Fantastique Unfettered #1 offers something for many different tastes, in what seems to me a very promising start for the new publication.

This review is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, (c) Nader Elhefnawy. You are free to republish this review anywhere you like, so long as you give attribution to the author and to The Future Fire and keep this license text intact in any copy.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

M-Brane 26 releases tonight; a few comments on Verday, Dragon Age

In a couple hours I will release the electronic edition of M-Brane SF #26 to subscribers. The following is a version of my editorial notes from the new issue. The first section is about the stories; the second part consists of some comments, with links, on a couple of matters that drew my attention this week: author Jessica Verday pulling out of an antho because the editor said her characters didn't have the right gender combo to be acceptable, and game company Bioware rejecting some whining from the beleaguered Straight Male Gamer.

UPDATED 3/28 to add button to purchase this issue's PDF at bottom of this post; funds raised by single-issue sales support future issues; copies are distributed by way of a link sent by email, so allow up to a day for delivery to your in-box.

This month, we have five terrific entries and a lot pro writers. I am about a week late in presenting them, so I won’t delay things too much further except to say that if you read only five stories this month, you could do a lot worse than reading these five. They are lovely. Of the authors, two have been seen here before. Rick Novy makes his at least sixth (maybe seventh—lost track!) appearance this month with a story that has not previously been printed but which he presented in audio form with music as part of Michelle Welch’s Theme and Variations audio anthology. Rick was also the guest editor of our twelfth issue, and the editor of the M-Brane Press anthology 2020 Visions. Michael Andre-Driussi appears here for a fourth time. His vast project of producing reference works for Gene Wolfe’s fictional universe makes him perhaps one of the coolest people around or one of the hardest-core geeks ever. Either way, we’re glad to see him here again. That we ended up with a great story from J.M. Sidorova forced me to conclude that she had exhausted all other possible publication options because every other editor had either lost his/her mind or perhaps had too many Sidorova items booked elsewhere already. In any case, I’m thrilled. I don’t know if I was intended to find a big “message” in Eric Del Carlo’s story, but I decided that it’s an appropriate item, especially for our American readers, in our present age of Permanent War where no one seems to directly bear the cost of armed conflict save for the soldiers themselves and their immediate families. Before I saw his story, I was not familiar with Gary Budgen, but his entry was one of those items that went directly from the slush folder to the “maybe” folder after I read the first page. When I went back to look at the “maybes,” it quickly went to the “yes” folder. It’s shorter than I usually choose for M-Brane, but it’s lovely.
Two items popped up in the last week that crystallized some common sense. The first is this item about Bioware telling a spokesperson for the “straight male gamer” demographic to get over it that there is an option for same-sex romance in the Dragon Age 2 game. The second is from Hollow Trilogy author Jessica Verday on her decision to withdraw a story from a forthcoming YA antho. 

The Bioware staffer who responded to a complaint about the possibility of gayness in that game said something that is so obvious when one thinks about it, but said it in a better way than I have seen in recent memory: “And if there is any doubt why such an opinion might be met with hostility, it has to do with privilege. You can write it off as ‘political correctness’ if you wish, but the truth is that privilege always lies with the majority. They're so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance. [emphasis mine] They don't see anything wrong with having things set up to suit them, what's everyone's fuss all about? That's the way it should be, and everyone else should be used to not getting what they want.” 

This makes the point a lot more cogently and reasonably than what my response would have been. I am sick of every time someone tries to be inclusive of a minority in any kind of media, it is blasted as “political correctness” and—even more outrageously—as disrespect to the all-important straight-male demo. Because, you know, they’ve never gotten their way with anything. I applaud Bioware for thinking that romance can be for anyone.

Similarly, listen to this from Jessica Verday:
“You don't choose who you fall in love with and you don't choose to be gay. We're constantly bombarded with messages from sick people who try to tell us that it's a choice or a lifestyle or an agenda. But Wesley and Cameron's story isn't an agenda or an issue. It isn't an ‘I have to prove something to the world’ story. Wesley and Cameron's story is a love story. About one boy who loves another boy so much that when something bad happens to him, he'll do whatever it takes to get him the help he needs.

“Just bittersweet, hopeful, first love. And I think the world needs more of that.

“While I may not have intentionally written an ‘issues’ story, in the real world this issue is very personal to me. I have gay friends, fans, and family and by allowing my story to be changed in that way I would be contributing to a great disservice to them, the entire LGBT community, and to readers in general. You are not wrong or a dirty little secret for being who you are. Love is beautiful and rare. When you find it, you should hold onto it and not let go. You should not be made to feel inferior.”

The editor, Trish Telep, from whose antho Verday’s story was withdrawn, replied thus:

Oh dear. Might as well give you my two cents. Not that it really matters but... Don't take it out on the publishers, the decision was mine totally. These teen anthologies I do are light on the sex and light on the language. I assumed they'd be light on alternative sexuality, as well. Turns out I was wrong! Just after I had the kerfuffle with jessica, I was told that the publishers would have loved the story to appear in the book! Oh dear. My rashness will be the death of me. It's a great story. Hope jessica publishes it online. (By the way: if you want to see a you tube video of me wrestling a gay man in Glasgow, and losing, please let me know).”

While that’s lovely that Ms. Telep admitted that she made a boneheaded mistake, it’s too bad she did it in such a half-assed and ultimately non-serious way. What’s “wrestling a gay man in Glasgow” got to do with it? Is it supposed to be funny? Is it supposed to be a version of “oh, I don’t have a problem with gayness, I have gay friends.”? But here’s what really turns my crank about her response: there is no such thing as “alternative” sexuality. Sexual orientation is not an “alternative,” it’s not a “preference,” it’s not fucking choice, and I don’t propose to spend the rest of my life arguing about it with fools. The fact that Telep seemed to think that Verday’s story would be perfectly fine for the book if she simply (simply!) changed the gender of one of the characters belies a deep misconception and prejudice of which she may be honestly unaware of inside herself. She needs to take a look at that. I don’t think she is probably a homophobe by conscious intent, but she blithely expresses majority privilege nonetheless.

Privilege always lies with the majority. The majority gets pissed off if they ever detect that they’re not being exclusively catered to. And anyone who doesn’t fit into the majority is not just some “alternative” that everyone can set just aside. Love is for everyone. Thanks to these people in very different fields for making these points so cogently.

Buy a PDF of M-Brane SF #26 here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Announcing M-Brane SF #26 contents

Running a little late this month, but not too badly so. Following is the list of stories and authors of M-Brane SF #26, the March issue will release probably Sunday. Rick Novy (editor of 2020 Visions), returns with a very cool item, as does Michael Andre-Driussi. New to our pages are J.M. Sidorova, Gary Budgen and Eric Del Carlo, all offering some remarkable visions.

J.M. Sidorova  “Watching the Rubber Band”
Gary Budgen  “Salt Cellar”
Michael Andre-Driussi  “Junkboy and Debutante”
Eric Del Carlo  “The Iron’s With Me”
Rick Novy “K.622”

Items from this electronic issue will also be compiled in print with items from issue #25 and April's issue #27 in the third M-Brane SF Quarterly.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

M-Brane SF Quarterly #2 has been released

My real job--the one that provides my paycheck--got rather unexpectedly busy over the last couple weeks, causing me to fall behind on normal updates in the M-Brane world, such as the release of M-Brane SF Quarterly #2 last week (thank you to the writers who have done more to spread the word on this so far than I have). This is the second volume of a print book series collecting the fiction from three electronic issues of M-Brane SF. Also, this book contains some items not included those issues: two spectacular stories by Zachary Jernigan and an interview with him. It's such a lovely book, way worth the $9.95 on Amazon. M-Brane SF makes a couple dollars profit on each sale, and all of this money goes right back into continuing the zine and our other publishing projects, so picking up a copy is a good way to support us and also to find some really fine fiction.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gay Marriage: Will Fletcher appoint Supreme Court?

BREAKING—Anonymous sources confirm that M-Brane President-for-Life Christopher Fletcher is about to announce the formation of a “Supreme Court” which he claims will have “planet-wide jurisdiction over the question of the legality of gay marriage.” For months, sources within the Brane’s administration have indicated that Fletcher has become increasingly impatient with “the sheer idiocy of the anti-marriage-quality position and the slow pace of reform by conventional Earth-based governments. And also dumbassity.”

Said one member of the administration, speaking on condition of anonymity, “It’s all he talks about anymore. His entire throne room is acrid with the smoke of burning Maggie Gallagher and Jim Demint in effigy.”

Though the composition of this new court remains unknown, critics fear that Fletcher will stack the tribunal with judges sympathetic to his own position on the matter. Possible nominees to the new court include the following:

Theodore “Teddy” Altman (aka “Hulkling”): Superhero and member of the Young Avengers. Conservative critics of the M-Brane regime claim that Altman cannot be unbiased on the matter of gay marriage since he himself is gay. It is unlikely that this argument will gain much traction within M-Brane Tower.

Jonny Quest: Raised by same-sex parents, Quest is thought to be sympathetic to marriage equality, though his own sexual orientation is unknown. Conservatives insist that Fletcher would never consider Quest for appointment to his new court if he were not already confident of Quest’s bias on the matter of gay marriage. Also, Fletcher’s recent frequent visits to the “Questworld” compound in a subset of aetherspace have drawn much attention.

Magneto: Possibly the most controversial choice; conservatives decry his attempt of a few years ago to use the “Cerebro” device to find and possibly kill all of the “humans,” which they read as code for “straight people.” Also, suspicions linger that Fletcher has recreated a Cerebro machine at the apex of M-Brane Tower. Fletcher’s close relationship with the rogue mutant has been a subject of controversy for years.

Jeff Lund: It is assumed that Fletcher’s life partner would be a guaranteed vote for the government position. Liberal critics, however, point to Lund’s frequent condemnations of marriage as a concept (for all people) and suggest that he is a loose cannon whose vote cannot be predicted.

Legal scholars remain divided over whether M-Brane Tower, as an extra-planetary domain, can in fact assert worldwide jurisdiction on the issue of marriage rights. They also differ in opinion on a recent “legal finding” by the regime which decrees that a new court, if constituted, may not hear arguments based on religion or “the Bible,” as these would be ruled automatically to be not “rational.” It is expected that when the court is convened, opponents of gay marriage will have thirty days to prove their position “rationally.” It is assumed that they will face an uphill battle if religiously-based arguments will not be heard. Also, it is expected that the “gay sex is icky” argument will be excluded from consideration.

Monday, February 21, 2011

M-Brane SF #25 released

We have released the twenty-fifth issue, which happens to be the first monthly issue of our third year of monthly publication. Table of contents:

Anna Caro "The Shape of My Wife"
Catherine Batac Walder "Of the Magdiwang that Never made it to Baguio and other Studies of Trains"
Grey Valleau "Tiger"
Michael Ray "Alchemy"
Shaun O. McCoy "Electric Blues"
Peta Freestone "Neverspring"

The individual issue PDF can be had for a donation of $2.00 using the Pay Pal button below. Funds raised in this way support future issues.


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